Board Members

If you are interested in joining the board for The Center for Exceptional families, please fill out the Board Application and email a completed copy to





Kumba Williams


Kumba Williams is a mother of five children, two with disabilities.  She is a strong advocate who works tirelessly to make sure that her children have the best education possible.  A native of Sierra Leone, West Africa, Kumba moved to the United States almost 20 years ago to pursue ‘the American Dream’.  However, she has never forgotten her homeland, its political injustice, extreme poverty and failing education system.  Kumba has created an organization focused on changing the educational outcomes for children in Sierra Leone and is currently working to open an elementary school there.

Kumba and her husband and family live in Jonesboro.





Sondra Meacham

Sondra Meacham is a native of Gosnell, Arkansas. She graduated from Gosnell High School and received her Associate of Arts degree from Arkansas Northeastern College in 2002, then her Bachelors of Science in Education-English from Arkansas State University in 2004. 

Sondra has taught English and Journalism at Armorel High School. She currently teaches tenth grade English and pre-AP English at Gosnell High School and works with the Area 13 Special Olympics and co-sponsors a special athletes club at Gosnell High School. 

Sondra is married with three daughters. Her middle child, Lila, has Down syndrome. Since Lila’s birth, Sondra has educated herself and those in her community about the importance of inclusion. She’s very passionate about helping those with disabilities succeed.






Julie Shimkus

Julie Shimkus was born and raised in Southern California. She has lived in North central Arkansas for last 10 years. She has received a CNA certification from Arkansas State University of Mountain Home.
Julie is married to Aaron Shimkus and is a devoted mother to their two children, Allen and Aveleen.  Due to Allen’s rare birth defect, Agenesis of the corpus callosum, Julie quickly realized the importance of social media among families with special needs children. Julie is a creator and administrator to a  Facebook support group for families with special needs children with over 350 members. Julie believes in advocating for your special needs child.

Mary Helen Cox



Mary Helen Cox was born and raised in Malvern, AR and has lived in Jonesboro for the past 11 years.  She graduated from Arkansas State University in 2007 with a degree in Early Childhood Education with an emphasis in Special Education and with a Masters in Educational Theory and Practice in 2011.

Mary Helen and her husband James have two children, Emma and Jonah.  Their youngest, Jonah, was born with special needs including Autism.  Since Jonah’s birth, Mary Helen has learned first-hand the importance of advocacy in the life of a special needs child and has dedicated her time to both of her children as well as helping other families who are new to the special needs world.


Lauren Preston


Lauren Preston was born and raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.  She and her husband, Alan are raising three boys, Holden, Jack and Carson.

Lauren and Alan received a Down syndrome diagnosis for their son, Jack, shortly after his birth.  Since that day, she has been focused on educating herself and others about his diagnosis and the importance of inclusion for individuals with special needs.  She is passionalte about the special needs community and strives to raise awareness and help promote acceptance.

Lauren and her family make their home in Jonesboro.


Jerry Smith


Gerald A. Smith “Jerry”, is a self-advocate who lives in Jonesboro.  He was diagnosed with Autism PDD-NOS as a toddler.  Jerry is a 2015 graduate of Nettleton High School in Jonesboro.  He graduated May 2019 from Arkansas State University Beebe with an Associates of Applied Science degree in Business Technology and a technical certificate in Computer Information Systems.

Jerry works part time at a local grocery store but is searching for full time employment in the business sector. He likes to travel and Disney World is one of his favorite vacation destinations.  Jerry is an avid dog and cat lover as well.  He is looking forward to sharing his experiences and being an example to others on the Autism Spectrum.


Rob West

Rob grew up in Hendersonville, Tennessee.  He is married to Melanie and they have three daughters.
Rob has been an on-air radio personality for more than twenty years and works locally at Jonesboro Radio Group. Rob’s profession has taken his family to many different places through the years, and they are happy to be settling down in Jonesboro. He is an avid outdoorsman who loves hunting, fishing, sports and boating.
Rob and his wife are foster parents with three siblings currently in their home.  He and his wife saw the need and felt they could make a difference for children in the foster care system.  Rob and his family feel that fostering brings great joy to their lives just in knowing they are helping to make a child’s life better.